Is the modern camera too perfect?

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how much the camera matters to capture a good photo. I have blattered through some of the historic street photos in books and realised that many of these are not necessarily technically masterpieces. They are masterpieces though in their expression and the moments they have captured and hold to be watched forever.

As part of that realisation, it came to my mind that I may not need a perfect camera and a perfect lens to make good photography. It isn’t necessary to own an expensive Leica to grasp the essence of life. It isn’t necessary to have a camera that has 60 megapixels that shoot noise-free at very high ISO.
It’s perfectly fine to operate an older Leica M 9 that adds noise above 800 ISO because most can be shot with ISO 800 and below even in low light with a fast lens. The original Fuji X100 is a smaller sensor camera (APS-C X100: 23.5 mm × 15.7 mm), and smaller sensors often are prone to make a bit more noise than a full-frame camera.

In the modern world of 2023, noise at high ISO means very little. Noise sensitivity is not a real deal unless one shoots in very dark environments. Most new cameras show good noise handling also in the lower cost end.

The lens is the most important part of a camera

The soul of the photo is dictated by the lens. Many invest in expensive lenses but the lens doesn’t do the job alone. A photographer making the best of it must be behind it.
The nature of lenses is very diverse. The well-known and expensive Leica glass is known to deliver high quality, many being sharp from edge to edge. This is of course wonderful and I have always loved my Summilux 50mm f1.4 if it was mounted on the Leica M or a Sony Alpha body. It always makes the picture stand out.

The thing is that I have also taken photographs with vintage lenses on the same camera bodies and they added something else. Less sharp maybe, and this is not about being in focus.
But some have a different soft and pleasing rendering of colours and tonality from the newer Sony glasses for example. Without comparison in quality build, but just as an example of a different expression coming from choosing other glass and lens types.

This brings me to the Fuji X100 as a street camera. The fixed lens on the Fujifilm X10oV and VI  is a 23mm f/2 wide-angle lens. Because of the camera sensor, it has an equivalent focal length of 35mm because of the X100’s ~1.5x crop factor. The overall sharpness and contrast I find are very good across the frame, having just a touch of softness in the corners viewed in a photo taken at f/8.

This picture was captured with the original X100 which has a 12mpix CMOS sensor. The picture was taken in Odense, Denmark, at a Café with two brothers (twins maybe?) playing a game of chess. 

The lens quality vs reality

To the point. What I realised when looking at the photos captivated and impressed me most when looking in the photo books, was that nearly none of them impressed me with shallow depth of field, low noise or sharpness.
The Photos impressed me mainly because they were alive and interesting. Not because they were technically perfect.

Many digital cameras produce pictures that are maybe too perfect these days. They can become lifeless and too clean. They miss the feeling.

I think that’s why some photographers are going back to real film cameras, or shooting with vintage lenses. Longing for that feeling of imperfections that film and older cameras give you.
The popularity of the Fuji X100V and now VI is based on some of these feelings. Adding possible film simulations and a sense of the old days.
The camera handles ISO noise as well as most other modern cameras and the film simulations build in has reached a wide audience.

If you need more than that or have a camera that doesn’t support these film looks I can recommend the Dehancer Film Emulsion tool, which now also comes with an online edition. Simply drag a photo into the browser, adjust and download. There is a 10% discount if you use the promo code ALBEK at checkout. Both for the online version and the Lightroom and Photoshop extension tool.

Camera simplicity and feeling

I may decide to go with a new Fujifilm X100 model and will get it when it’s available. I owned the very first X100 special edition, and the S model some time ago. I miss the feeling and simplicity in this yet modern advanced camera. But the handling and ease of having it with me all the time is a factor like the Leica M system. It is just cheaper and satisfies my needs. maybe less perfect but still so good that it doesn’t make a big difference. The most important is the pictures captured and how we as photographers learn to know our tools.

The Fuji X100VI demands me to go back to the 35mm experience where I have been addicted to 50mm lenses for a long time now. More on that topic later. It might also end up with a 35mm for the Leica. We will see. I still keep and use the 50mm and other cameras just to get that clear. But I feel a need for something different to set new adventures in my exploration of photography.

Below is another twin shot done with the Leica M9 a few years ago.

Twins. Leica M9, Summilux 50mm f1.4

Odense, Denmark. Leica M9, Summilux 50mm f1.4

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Morten Albek Photography

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading